Choosing a Professional Writing Organization

By Kathrese McKee | Craft

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If you have no publishing credentials, membership in a writers’ organization is a good way to show editors and agents that you have an interest in perfecting your craft and that you are serious about your writing career. If you are a member of a critique group, mention that too.

Choosing Your Professional Writing Organization

Membership in writers’ groups is only as valuable as you make it. Professional organizations cost a pretty penny, and they need to earn their place in the budget. Participation is key, so it’s important to choose one or more organizations based on the following criteria:

  • Is the organization aligned with your genre and goals?
  • Can you attend chapter meetings? If not, is there a good way to meet other members on-line through forums or Facebook groups?
  • What benefits does the organization offer? Do the benefits have value for you?
  • Does the organization sponsor recognized contests?
  • Do they offer courses to help you grow?
  • How will the organization help you to network with other authors?
  • Will the group help you market your book?

One of my readers, Kat, brought up Realm Makers, a growing group of Christian speculative fiction authors that is NOT currently a formal organization with by-laws and dues. However, this year will mark their fifth yearly conference, and they have a thriving on-line community. In my opinion, if you know the agent or editor is aware of Realm Makers, then putting a line about attending the Realm Maker Conference or participating in the Realm Makers Consortium (Facebook group) would demonstrate commitment to craft and networking with like-minded authors.

This brings up the fact that each query needs to be tailored to the recipient. If you were directing a query to an agent who regularly attends Realm Makers, then you might mention your history with the group. If you were directing your query or proposal to a national publishing house editor, mentioning Realm Makers would carry no water. In this situation, being a member of a nationally-recognized organization would have far more credibility than “membership” in an informal association like Realm Makers.

Other bio tips for queries and proposals:

  • Use third-person in your bio.
  • Mention memberships, significant awards, and other credentials if you have them.
  • If your profession lends credibility, mention it. For example, if you were/are a teacher, librarian, or editor, you would mention it.
  • Mention your website.
  • Keep the bio focused on you as an author.

This is an example of what to avoid in your author bio:

“My name is Betty Lou, and I am an aspiring author from Scranton, New Jersey who loves to write for kids.”

Let’s rewrite the bio for our debut author without publishing credentials:

”Betty Lou is a freelance author of speculative fiction for middle grade and young adult students. She runs the Creepy Things Critique Group in Scranton, New Jersey and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Her website is at BettyLou.com.”

Here is a list of my current professional memberships and a couple from the past:

The Christian PEN (Silver Member) $50/year https://thechristianpen.com/

Okay, so it’s not an association for authors. If you think you have the “chops” and temperament for editing, this friendly association of like-minded editors will help you learn the business and perfect your craft. I have taken nearly all of the courses they offer, and I plan to apply for the Gold level this year.

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) $65 to join and $45/year after that http://www.acfw.com

ACFW offers many online groups and courses for its members. It holds an annual conference. I have made many friends through this organization, but it does not have my unqualified stamp of approval. Yes, I am currently serving as a chapter president. However, I have thought for several years now that ACFW is too closely allied with tradition Christian publishing companies and hasn’t responded quickly enough to the realities of the market. Also, ACFW’s members tend to write in three main genres aimed at a very thin (and graying) slice of the marketplace: Christian Historical fiction, Christian Romance, and Cozy Mystery/Suspense. I am an independent Speculative Fiction author, and I feel as out of place as a cowbird in a robin’s nest most of the time.

If you can participate in a local chapter (separate chapter dues), then I encourage you to give it a try. This is my favorite aspect of ACFW and where I receive the most value.

Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) $99/year for an Author Member https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/

This group was founded by self-published British authors who’ve had a harder time than their American cousins making a go of independent publishing. Big names like Orna Ross and Joanna Penn are prominent members, and they share generous portions of great business advice every month. If you have not already published a book, then you are eligible for the Associate Member rate of $75/year.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) $99 to join and $80/year after that http://www.scbwi.org/

The books cover ages 0-18, so don’t be fooled by the name. Young Adult writers are welcome here. So far, I have been impressed with the quality of this organization. They offer grants to help authors and illustrators pay the expenses of creating their work. True, you have to compete for the grants, but I think this is the mark of an organization committed to helping its members succeed. Student memberships are available.

Romance Writers of America (RWA) $99/year NO LONGER A MEMBER

RWA is one of the largest writers’ organizations in the world. I have a romantic element in my Young Adult books, so I was a member of RWA for a year. Personally, I couldn’t stomach the stampede to writing erotica, so I dropped out.

Houston Writers Guild (HWG) $60 to join and $50/year after that PAST MEMBER http://www.houstonwritersguild.org/

I have nothing against HWG. In fact, I will probably attend their annual “Indiepalooza” conference in September instead of spending $1400 plus to attend the ACFW conference in Dallas this year. Obviously, HWG is local to Houston, but in the fourth-largest US city (FOURTH LARGEST!!), a local organization can attract significant memberships. I may rejoin them in the future.

There are so many organizations I haven’t named. Search the internet for groups that match your needs and budget, then get involved.

Let me know your favorites in the comments below.

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About the Author

Award-winning author, Kathrese McKee, writes Young Adult Fantasy and helps others bring their fiction to life through editing and mentoring.